It’s that time of year again. You are either preparing your marketing budget or getting ready to implement a new plan. Part of the reason this framework was created was that most of us become frustrated or ineffective from planning one of three ways:

  • Legacy budget planning: We take last year’s budget and add some overall budget increase percentage and expect things to work out. They rarely do.
  • Consensus budget planning: We run around asking everyone what they would like in a marketing budget. We can’t support everything, and the numbers never add up.
  • Ad hoc budget planning: We “wing” it. Let’s build this plane as we move along. Again, there are rarely clear business goals and minimal efficiency is achieved.

We’ve all been there. How about trying something different this year and follow the steps that have been used by Hinge GovCon clients with success—year after year.

These six steps can help almost every government contractor marketer with his or her budgeting or planning process.

Step 1: Start with Your Business Goals

Your marketing budget probably can’t support every initiative. As you build your marketing budget or review your plan before implementation, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What segments are the highest priorities?
  • What timeframe is the expected growth to take place?

Answers to these—and other—questions will help put focus on your budget or plan.

Step 2: Research Your Target Audiences

You can start with the secondary research you have in-house or can find online; but in many cases, you may want to use a research firm to help you leverage primary research through phone interviews or emailed surveys. A lot of folks feel that they know their audiences, but I have yet to see anyone who did not learn of new audiences through research. In the long term, research reduces risk and saves time.

Step 3: Validate Your Marketing Strategy

Addressing Step 3 could be a lengthy separate article. For now, I would recommend that you spend time assessing your differentiators—which drive your messaging, positioning, and sales engagement. What truly separates your government contracting firm from all the others out there? Spend the time to figure that out and make sure it comes across in your plan implementation. At Hinge, we run differentiators through three tests:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it provable?

Step 4: Select Your Marketing Techniques

Depending on your business processes, there are a number of traditional and digital marketing options available to you. Constantly be testing and measuring the options you choose. You probably want some mix of traditional and digital marketing options; but keep in mind that more and more buyers are using digital channels to research business challenges and evaluate service providers. If you decide to create some type of marketing and sales funnel, remember that not all marketing activities work at every stage of the funnel.

Step 5: Set Up Your Tracking Approach

There are a whole host of metrics that you can be tracking with your marketing spend and programs. The key is to start with a few metrics that you can measure on a regular basis. Then build on those with a few more metrics. Some of the types of basic metrics to consider include:

  • Visibility metrics: website traffic, social media followers, email list size
  • Expertise metrics: blog traffic, number of speaking engagements, number of social shares
  • Business impact metrics: number of online form fills, number of proposals, cumulative value of wins

You must measure if you want to optimize.

Step 6: Optimize Your Marketing Budget, Plans, and Programs

Step 6 is why you go through this multi-step framework. You want to be able to optimize what you are doing—make it as efficient and effective as possible. Don’t “set it and forget it.” Depending on the marketing activity, measure your efforts on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. Make changes along the way.

Try out these six steps this year and see if you don’t end up with a better marketing plan and budget that helps your firm get stronger buyer engagement and growth.

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This article was published in the Winter 2020 edition of PSC's Service Contractor Magazine.